Inside Miami Beach City Hall early this month, two fully grown men — highly paid public servants — had a staring contest.
"Liar," seethed Emanuel Mayer, an assistant to the city manager.
"Stop calling me a liar," said Charles Carreño, director of capital improvement projects, "or I'll come over there and make you stop."
Miami Beach City Hall fight
"Liar," Mayer said again.
The two men can't agree on what happened next, but this much is certain: A near-brawl erupted, police were called, and good, tax-paying citizens across Miami Beach were left shaking their heads at the kindergarten antics of men paid extravagantly well to run their city.
Mayer and Carreño have more in common than not. Both were born in 1966, grew up in the Magic City — Mayer attending Miami Beach High, Carreño Hialeah High — and studied engineering at the University of Florida.
Mayer, who owns local firm MDG, Inc., was hired in 2008 at the urging of City Commissioner Ed Tobin to help the city save money on construction bids. For his trouble, he was offered $149,000 per year – plus a $4,800 car allowance and 48 potential days off.
A few months later, Carreño was hired to run the city's capital improvement projects department. Miami Beach lured him away from The Related Group with a $153,000 salary.
By all accounts, the two hated each other. Mayer's job — finding overpriced bids — led to frequent criticism of Carreño's work. Carreño, meanwhile, was the kind of even-tempered boss who earned another visit from police in August when an employee accused him of throwing a chair during a cuss-filled rant. (Carreño denies it. No charges were filed.)
On November 30, the conflict "came to a boil" when assistant city manager Jorge Gomez — called a meeting to clear the air.
Just past 7 p.m., Carreño and Mayer sat down inside City Hall, with Gomez between them. Both men agree that Mayer calling Carreño a "liar" sparked the fight.
Mayer told police Carreño grabbed him by his throat and raised a hand to punch him. Carreño admits he balled up his fist, but says he only grabbed Mayer's shirt.
Despite Mayer's pleas to take Carreño out of the office "in handcuffs," police declined to arrest anyone.
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But really, who cares?
The fact is, two bosses pulling in salaries that 99 percent of the 305 would sell out their grandpa to earn couldn't act like adults inside City Hall.
As long as we're keeping score, though, Carreño may have had the last laugh: after the scuffle, Mayer announced he's resigning.